Saturday, August 19, 2023

Getting Sociable With Genealogy


Just when we thought we saw the death of local genealogical societies and a turn to genealogical solitaire, must have decided to change it all. And I say cheers for that.

For some time now, those of us who have sprung for a DNA test have been able to reach out to our matches—at least in the hopes of getting a reply from our unknown cousins. With my latest discovery of a possible additional branch of my father-in-law's Tully line, I've been doing quite a bit of reaching out, myself. And, encouragingly, some people have been responding.

With DNA, not all responses are upbeat, of course. I did run across one contact whose family member's situation was apparently more similar to an adoptee's story than the usual connection we'd expect to make. What do you say in a situation like that? But in many other cases—especially now, when I'm looking for family memorabilia which might provide clues to confirm or reject my hypothesis about the newly discovered Dennis Tully—I'm welcoming any information I can find. Other DNA matches want to know, too. Together, we are pushing back into the murky unknown on this family tree, and it is exciting to contemplate.

The ability to connect with other DNA matches presents a tool to enable us to gather more information. There may only have been one lucky son or daughter who inherited those early photographs or other family keepsakes, back in the first generation of our family's history. But now, we can scan photos and share their digital versions with the multiple distant cousins who are now out there, several generations later. Having the ability to contact those matches makes the exchange possible.

There are other ways now to connect over family history, as well. While most genealogy services have offered the ability to connect with other subscribers, it seems that opportunity is multiplying., for instance, has offered their new Circles, and while they have yet—apparently—to work out the kinks in full accessibility for connection with other subscribers, this idea is on the right track. 

Then, too, the Activity tab in the pedigree chart on Ancestry includes in their drop-down menu a selection called Viewers. In my opinion, that was an excellent idea. Apparently, other subscribers did not share that opinion; for in the few weeks since its introduction, several people researching the same lines as mine took the option to opt out of the feature by shutting it down in their settings. While I understand people's desire to maintain their privacy, at the same time, they are cutting themselves short from any opportunity to collaborate with other researchers pondering the same family puzzles. Some tools lose their value if no one uses them.

Over the years, I have heard encouraging stories of distant cousins working together to multiply their efforts in piecing together their family's story. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I've also run into researchers who have a knack for putting a damper on any team approach. I dunno, perhaps we need a guide for getting social with our genealogy. But no matter how we reach out, I hope the trend to connect is able to grow and thrive. We all know something about our ancestors that maybe the others in the family have yet to discover. With access to tools for connecting and a shared passion to pursue our family's stories, we have a great way to super-charge the process and enjoy making the connections that come with teamwork. 

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